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Plain Kate

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  4,360 ratings  ·  824 reviews
A debut novel that's as sharp as a knife's point.

Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver's daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden charms are so fine that some even call her "witch-blade" -- a dangerous nickname in a town where witches are hunted a
Hardcover, Arthur A. Levine, 314 pages
Published September 1st 2010 by Scholastic
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Susan A. I believe this book is definitely worth the time and energy it takes to read it! The world the author has created feels so genuine and you really get…moreI believe this book is definitely worth the time and energy it takes to read it! The world the author has created feels so genuine and you really get the chance to fall in love with the characters! In my personal opinion, I think you should give the book another try. (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Emily May

Oh, rip my heart out, why don't you? This is such a horrifying and sad book that again makes me ask the question: just what on earth is going on in the UK publishing world??? This book was released in the US as Plain Kate with a cover that features the protagonist walking along a rooftop with her cat. Though it doesn't exactly gear you up for some of the horrors this story contains, at least it doesn't look like a pretty, twinkly version of Ferngully: The Last Rainforest. What is up with that c
I cannot believe this is Erin Bow's first novel. In the acknowledgments she mentions that she worked on this book for six years--it shows. From the first page, the author drops you into the story and there honestly was no drag throughout the entire book. We are introduced to Kate and her father, both woodcarvers who live in Similae. The surrounding communities have been plagued with death, torrential rains, and crop damage and the people of Kate's town, as well as other towns, are on the lookout ...more
Mar 14, 2011 Tatiana rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of dark fairy tales with very young protgonists
The highest praise I can give a book is to favorably compare it to my all-time favorites - Lips Touch: Three Times and The Queen of Attolia. Erin Bow's writing style is as simple and precise, with not one extra, unnecessary word, as Megan Whalen Turner's and her story is as grounded in folklore while being completely original as Laini Taylor's.

The basic premise of the novel is that Kate, a lonely, orphaned child with no one to take care of her, is tricked by a witch into giving up her shadow in
Not since Kiki’s Delivery Service have I loved a talking cat this much!

I’m hoping that opening line will encourage you few hold outs to pick this one up. This book actually does remind me of a Studio Ghibli film, in that it is sweet and a bit fanciful, with odd and original mythology and characters, but also has surprisingly deep underlying themes. The grief and loneliness that run through this story are palpable.

Kate is named for her mother Katerina, who dies during childbirth. “I just call her

The Really Short Version:


The Short Version:

Basically, any book with an awesome cat in it needs to GET. ON. MY. SHELF. And the cat in Wood Angel [aka Plain Kate] is so awesome, he singlehandedly lead to the creation of a designated shelf for all such noble felines, which I am calling “Rad Catz”.

The Long(er) Version:

The sales assistant at the bookshop I loiter in frequent just about refused to let me leave without this book. Her love for it was palpable, she was holding it out to me like s
I am left in a flood of emotions after reading this book that I don't know how I'll be able to articulately express the things I want to say.

Plain Kate had me hooked from chapter one. The whole tone, feel, and plot of this book just screamed a fairy tale vibe. If you've read the original stories and not the Disney movie versions than you'll be able to appreciate the traditional use of song, animal guide/helper, and the forlorn/downtrodden young girl who manages to achieve her happy end.

Erin Bow'
The atmosphere of this book is... unique , in a very good way. Everything has a melancholy undertone to it, and you get sucked into this time period where magic is to be feared, and anyone who so much as look a little funny is accused of witchcraft.

Our heroine, Plain Kate, is one of these individuals. She has one eye the color of the muddy river bank and the other of the clear blue river, and she also has mad skills with her craving knife. Misfortune hits Kate when her father dies of the "witchf
Tamora Pierce
PLAIN KATE is a wonderful first novel set in a world that's a bit medieval Slavic. Plain Kate, who insists on that name, is a wood carver in a world in which excellence at anything is too often regarded as witchcraft. In the wake of her father's death, desperately lonely and knowing the people of her village are starting to suspect her of witchcraft, Plain Kate sells her shadow to a mysterious trader for a wish. That wish gives a voice to her cat, but it also throws Plain Kate into the middle of ...more
A beautifully written dark fairy tale featuring a strong heroine and an absolutely lovable cat sidekick.

Set in a world reminiscent of medieval Russia, Wood Angel(aka Plain Kate for the US readers), ranks among my favourite reads this year so far. It is not a pleasant comfort read, but more a dark type of fairy tale with wonderfully shaded and round characters. There is no black and white, no good or bad in this novel – every character has decisions to make and does not always choose the right wa
I had read 106 pages when I stopped to admit to myself: "This is not for me". I was getting impatient and started flipping pages to quicken my pace. My thoughts drifted to my pile of unread books to determine which book I would pick up next.

Somehow the book is not what I had expected, both storywise and characterwise:
It is basically a sorcery fantasy set in a fantastic clone of post-medieval Russia - with harsh guilds, no kindness between neighbors, superstitious people, who crave the postive
What can I say about Plain Kate that will get you to read it? Because that's what this really comes down to: I want YOU to read this fantastic little book. So, what do you want in your reading material today?
How about... interesting setting reminiscent of (but not identical to) various Eastern European cultures? (Edit: After finding Erin Bow's website, I learned this was inspired by Russian folktales- but nothing about it felt particularly Russian to me, so I stand by this. I may be wrong.
(4.5 stars) Plain Kate is the orphaned daughter of a master woodcarver, and a skilled woodcarver herself. She lives in the town of Samilae, whose inhabitants are a superstitious lot; when the crops fail or disease strikes, they cast around for someone to blame. A Roamer (Rom), perhaps. A person with a deformity. Or, maybe, someone with a skill they think is uncanny. An enigmatic stranger arrives in Samilae with a terrible plan, and vulnerable Kate is just the right person to serve as the linchpi ...more
Rating: 2.5 Stars

Plain Kate is, quite honestly, just not the book for me. I know a countless number of my friends and most trusted reviewers have absolutely adored this tale, but despite being an ardent fantasy lover, I somehow could not get into it. Bow's debut follows the tale of Plain Kate, a tale of woe for every time something bad happens to her, something worse is waiting just around the corner. Kate is orphaned at a young age and after her father's age, she struggles to survive in their
Rich, haunting, unforgettable, this story draws on Russian folklore to immerse the reader in a unique and fully realized fantasy world.

Erin Bow is not only an award-winning poet but a masterful and captivating storyteller, with a knack for handling powerful emotions in an understated way that makes the reader feel them twice as strongly. She excels at portraying grief and horror, but she also has a deft way with humor, and though Kate's story leads her down some dark paths there are always glim
One of the main reasons I finished this book is because, happily, I’d won it in a Goodreads giveaway. So, I felt I should finish it so that I could write a full and honest review.

I think the other reason I felt compelled to finish this book was because I hoped that, by the end, I’d learn what the book was about. Unfortunately, I don’t think I did.

I’m not sure what age this book targets, but it certainly is one of the grimmest books I’ve read. Many of the subjects are pretty disturbing, and there
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja)
It's hard to say exactly what I felt for this book without rambling. First of all, let me say, I think this book has one of the most tormented heroines I've ever read about, both in adult and young adult literature! How much crap can one girl go through? As I listened, I kept thinking how morose this story was. But I had to keep listening. Hoping that Plain Kate would find joy and a place to call home.

This is a novel that shows the destructive effects of prejudice in an interesting way. In this
Aly (Fantasy4eva)
“And then because hope will break the heart better than any sorrow, she started to cry.”

(i specifically bought this online instead of the UK version (Wood Angel) at my local bookstore. i'm sure now you can see why. that title and cover just seemed all wrong for this book. i just love the title and cover of the US version. it fits perfectly ) :)


i have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. for the most part, i think i just felt like it held back in certain places and then randomly went all out
Sometimes you come across a book that you weren’t particularly keen to read but it blows you away with the sheer beauty of the story contained within its pages. The synopsis of Plain Kate doesn’t set it apart from the rest of the books in the genre. It doesn’t add anything to it that is wholly unique. There is nothing that prepares you for what’s inside. So you wander in, try a sentence. Or maybe two. Then before you know it, you have read a hundred pages and you simply must finish it because yo ...more
This book starts a little slow, partly because the narration is somewhat dreamlike, like listening to a story being told out loud. But it's also surprisingly emotionally intense, even if it did take time for those emotions to sneak up on me. There's a lot of death and pain and loss in here, and I got so attached to the main characters that I felt it deeply. I even ended up feeling for the villain of the book, which surprised me.

The story is driven by witchcraft, which takes a lot of cues from m
I'm a little perplexed that I didn't enjoy this book as much as everyone else who's read and reviewed it. I must have been in a different state of mind perhaps while reading this book as I didn't get swept away like all the previous readers of the book.

I typically like books of fantastical/magical genre but I must have had high expectations for this book and compared it to my favorites such as Finnikin of the Rock and Graceling and Plain Kate never compared to either one. The characters were al
Erin Bow
Jan 07, 2011 Erin Bow rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)
Well, obviously, *I* like it.... What did you think I'd say?
i'm still pissed off about this book. i'm trying to hold off on rating it because i have no idea what i'd rate it anyway. i can honestly say that the only thing i liked in this entire book was taggle. and pretty much nothing else.

i did not connect with kate at all. i didn't care about her or really get to know her or her thought processes or anything. and besides carving she wasn't really good at anything. people said she was brave, but what's the point of bravery if you don't even know what you

...hope will break the heart better than any sorrow...

Plain Kate is the type of book I wish I could have read when I was younger. As much as I loved Kate and her world now, I think it would have absolutely worked its way into me when I was a kid. At the same time, though, there's so much to the story that I appreciate as an adult that maybe would have gone unnoticed as a child.

I love a good outsider story, and this one does it really well. Kate, of course, is an outsider, barely eking an existen
Jul 23, 2011 Hallie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Hallie by: R.A. Anderson
Shelves: fantasy, ya, audiobook
Three-and-a-half, really. High marks for the writing, which I loved, but lower for some niggles I had with the story. One of those was the fact that the Roamers (still not sure how I feel about the Roma/Roamers bit), who knew that being a witch was not synonymous with being evil at all, still responded as if it were when they were given evidence that Kate might be one. (Even that was a leap I didn't quite see why they made.) All in all, for a book about love, in many forms, it had a very high co ...more
Samilae is a town of superstitions and suspicion. Though the villagers pay wood-carvers to make objarka, talismans meant to bring good luck or ward off evil, they also fear any skill with the knife. Thus, when a mysterious illness and deadly fog sweep through the land, many fingers start pointing at Plain Kate, a young orphaned wood-carver. Kate knows she cannot stay for fear of being burnt at the stake as a witch. Luckily, it seems, a stranger named Linay offers a proposition: means for Kate’s ...more
Omg, this book DESTROYED ME. Seriously, I haven't cried because of a book like that sense I was 8 and Leslie had died in Bridge to Terabithia...
I can't overstate how much I love her writing. Erin Bow's writing is simplistic in the best possible way. Her writing brings to mind authors like Kate DiCamillo (The Tale of Despereaux), Mary Lawson (although she doesn't write YA novels) and Kathi Appelt (The Underneath). To me this makes her writing all the more powerful. And while her writing may be si
This bittersweet fairy tale follows Plain Kate as she trades her shadow to a trickster witch for her heart's desire (which is to not be alone and, when granted, leads to her cat Taggle learning to talk), and subsequently realizes the dreadful plans she put in motion by doing so. The world is apparently based on Russian folklore, and so the story is much darker and more violent than the cover would lead you to believe, but it's a beautiful book, just beautiful, mournful and uplifting at the same ...more
In a world where witches are burned, Plain Kate is a wood carver of such extraordinary skill that the people of her town mutter "witch-blade" under their breath. As an orphan she has little except the tools her father gave her and the box from which she sells her carvings by day and sleeps in by night. Her only companion is a stray cat.

Then a witch comes to town and her life is changed forever. He turns the town against her and forces her to trade him her shadow. But without a shadow her life i
La Coccinelle
This book has been sitting in my TBR pile for years. I finally got around to picking it up... and do I ever wish I had done it sooner! I've been torturing myself with bad books when I could have been reading this?

Please, dear author, I want some more...

This book is such a refreshing change from most of the YA I've read recently. The main reason is that it has no romance. I've grown so accustomed to seeing romance in YA novels that every time a male between the ages of 15 and 30 came on the pag
Dec 11, 2010 Valerie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Valerie by: Cara
Shelves: fantasy
Kate is a strong, caring, courageous girl. Her talking cat is the best I've ever encountered in fantasy. The plot was captivating, the writing great, the characters so well developed, the magic haunting, and the cover wonderful.

Plain Kate is a skilled wood carver, maybe one of the best. So when strange things start happening people blame Kate because some call her talent witch craft. She has to leave but before this she exchanges her shadow for her heart's wish--to not go alone. Hence the talki
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1. I'm a physicist turned poet turned YA novelist.

2. I am world-famous in Canada, which is kind of like being world-famous in real life.

3. I wrote a book about Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy: THE SCORPION RULES, coming fall 2015 from Simon and Schuster.

4. I wrote a not-at-all-cute book with a talking cat in it: PLAI
More about Erin Bow...
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“Hope will break the heart better than any sorrow.” 48 likes
“I have business to conduct in the language of fur and claw.” 19 likes
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